Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday said although the government was hopeful of allowing an earlier phased opening of inbound tourists into the country, it was not practical to quarantine them for 14 days.
The Cabinet is expected to make an announcement on the final modalities regarding the targeted international tourism revival initiative, which was expected to start yesterday until 15 August.
“Soon we will make an announcement on how to open the borders. It is not practical to quarantine tourists for 14 days,” Shifeta said yesterday.
“I don’t think any reasonable person will take that offer even if it was done free of charge. A person leaves their country for another to get freedom and you want to put them in isolation?” According to the minister, there was also no point of receiving tourists into the country in an attempt to restart the economy, while the health system is overwhelmed.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is crippling the world’s economy. We are monitoring how other countries are doing it. All countries experienced serious cases, even death cases. It is a question of balancing health and the economy. It is not something you can predict that cases will go down and immediately open up,” he said.
The local tourism industry has already suffered serious losses due to the virulent pandemic, with thousands left without jobs. Shifeta said the situation is likely to persist for the next three years or likely for the rest of the year.
However, tourism and hospitality stakeholders have expressed their readiness to welcome international arrivals once Cabinet pronounces itself of the final modalities, including the quarantine period of such visitors.
These stakeholders also cautioned against the 14-day quarantine proposal currently on the table.
Shifeta yesterday said the reopening of borders for international travellers also depends on the readiness of other countries whom the majority of them remain closed. He added other aspects that need to be ironed before borders could reopen include the health measures.
The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) in consultation with the private sector developed the toolkit that spells out guidelines that various tourism businesses ranging from accommodation, tour operators, air charters, car rentals, must follow to ensure safety and hygiene, as well as the wellbeing of employees and visitors alike, are implemented.
NTB recommended that the government be at liberty to consider in the mix of everything the balancing act of health of the residents and the gradual opening of the economy and all other pertinent bilateral issues to apply the comprehensive decision.